Buying a 1951 Ford 4-door sedan from a fellow employee for a next-to-nothing price launched the long and stellar career of one of Vancouver Island’s most successful race drivers – Roy Smith.
It would have been very hard, if not impossible, for Roy to escape being bitten by the auto racing “bug” as he was surrounded by family, friends, co-workers and an employer who already had been. This included older brothers Alan and Jack plus Roy’s boss Geoff Vantreight, all of whom had been actively involved at Western Speedway since 1955. Fellow farm worker and racing enthusiast Fraser Benham was the one who sold Roy the Ford and another co-worker, Albert Smith (no relation), had started driving the previous year in Western’s “Jalopy” class which was the same division Roy now readied his newly-acquired Ford to compete in. With the help of his crew of Fraser Benham, Jack Laing and Roy Hastings plus assistance from friends Hugh McKie and Robbie Cain, 20 year old Roy took to the track for the start of the 1965 season.
Although he didn’t set the track on fire during his rookie season, Roy nonetheless recorded several wins and good finishes. Building a new Ford Jalopy for 1966, Roy ran the majority of that season at Nanaimo’s “Grandview Bowl”with VITRA (Vancouver Island Track Racing Association), finishing 5th in the points standings. Yet another new Ford for the ’67 season carried him past the midpoint of that year when he sold the car and first stepped behind the wheel of a Super Modified. Roy’s good showing in an older car his brother Al had formerly driven convinced Geoff Vantreight to have Roy join Al on the CAMRA (Canadian American Modified Racing Association) circuit for the remainder of the year. A Sept. 9th CAMRA meet at Langley Speedway saw Roy finish in 5th place overall behind Al who finished 3rd.
The “Smith Bros.” team continued in 1968 on both the CAMRA and local “Inter City” circuits with Roy posting more victories, the highlight of which was his winning of that year’s “Daffodil Cup”. The following season, he won the Inter City championship and finished 4th in CAMRA which included his repeat winning of the Daffodil Cup. More Inter City championships followed from ’69 to ’71 with a “Strawberry Cup”win in 1970 plus Daffodil, Strawberry and “Billy Foster 100” wins in ’71 and ’72. Roy set a new track record at Western on May 19, 1973 and repeated his Billy Foster 100 win. He then posted additional Foster 100 victories in 1974 and ’75 as well as being crowned Modified “International Drivers Challenge” champion both years.
Switching to “Late Model Stockcars” in 1976, he made his 1st appearance at the “Daytona 500” and finished in 22nd spot. Jumping back into the Modified, he won the ’77 Strawberry Cup. Roy made his 2nd start in the Daytona race in 1978 and finished 20th. In 1980 he drove an “Open” Late Model Stockcar and won Western’s “Canada 200” and was also crowned the NASCAR “Winston West” points champion, a 1st for a Canadian and which he repeated the following season. In addition, he was voted Victoria’s “Male Athlete of the Year”. In February of 1982, Roy made his 3rd appearance at the Daytona 500, this time with the help of his many Victoria fans and sponsors. The “Ride with Roy” promotion, in which supporters could purchase sponsorship laps of the 200 lap race for $100 each, helped raise some of the necessary funding and, at the wheel of a rented Pontiac from car owner Richard Childress, Roy finished in 10th place, being the highest-finishing Pontiac in the event.
From 1983 onward, he competed on a somewhat limited basis but continued to win his share of races throughout the Pacific Northwest.
Roy had passed the “racing bug” on to his eldest son Gary who started in go-karts at an early age, working his way up through the racing ranks and on July 5th, 1997, both father and son got to compete in the “Coors Light 200” at Monroe Washington’s “Evergreen Speedway”. Gary finished that race in 2nd spot with Roy in 7th.
In addition to his induction into the “Victoria Auto Racing Hall of Fame” in 1992, Roy was also honoured as an inductee in the “Greater Victoria Sports Hall of Fame” in 2002. Here is a link to his page on their website: https://www.gvshof.ca/inductees-2/all-inductees/21-motor-sports/87-roy-smith-2002.html
Also in 2002, Roy received induction into the “Canadian Motorsports Hall of Fame”. Here is the link: https://cmhf.ca/roy-smith/
Roy passed in February of 2004.